Letter from Iwo Jima
And now for the rest of the story. And what a rest it is. The second installment of Clint Eastwood’s World War II opus, “Letters from Iwo Jima,” is out and it almost puts “Flags of Our Fathers” to shame. The backdrop of the first film was that famous flag raising photo that gave Americans a much needed boost in morale (and war dollars). The second film focuses on those Japanese regiments that were ordered to defend Iwo Jima (also known as Sulphur Island) with their lives.Since we know how the war ended, you begin the film with a sense of foreboding. That sense soon becomes a burning, twisted knot as you come to know and like the various military men, particularly Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), a compassionate leader who left his life in the United States to serve his country; Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), the baker and soon-to-be father who reluctantly dons a military uniform; Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the former Olympic celebrity and gentleman horseman; and Shimizu (Ryo Kase), the “spy” who turns out to be more human than we could have imagined.
Based on a story by Paul Haggis and Iris Yamashita, the latter who also wrote the screenplay, “Letters from Iwo Jima” is unlike any World War II film you’re likely to see, because it humanizes the enemy. It doesn’t show the Japanese as wild-eyed, samurai sword wielding maniacs, as so many films have, but as men who leave behind wives, children, and families. This isn’t to make the film sound simplistic and na